For thousands of teenagers in Atlanta, across Georgia and beyond, summer break is just around the corner. That means lots of fun, free time and, for many teens, their first summer with a driver’s license and a first car.
As parents, we know you’re concerned about the safety of your sons and daughters on the road. We are as well. Our families travel these same roads. It’s difficult to find a balance between wanting your child to drive safely, but still giving them the freedom they deserve. State and federal data shows teenage drivers are still the most likely demographic to be involved in a serious or fatal car accident.
At Fried Goldberg, we want to help better educate you on some of the biggest risks teenagers drivers face and how to ensure your child has a safe summer on the road.
Teenage Driving Statistics
The first years behind the wheel are the most dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers 16 to 19 years old. About 292,000 teenagers in that age group are treated at hospitals each year. In 2011, 2,650 teenagers were killed.
Though people ages 15 to 24 make up just 14 percent of the population, they account for 30 percent of the nation’s total cost of motor vehicle injuries, about $19 billion.
The death rate is nearly two times higher for male teenager drivers than for women. Teenager drivers also frequently carpool with their friends, driving in packed, noisy cars. This has been proven to be particularly dangerous, as teenager drivers with passengers in their cars are more likely to be involved in a serious or fatal crash.
Because teenager drivers are still learning how to drive, they are much more likely to make mistakes on the road. In particular, teenage drivers are far more likely than older drivers to underestimate hazardous road conditions.
If it’s raining outside, drive slower. Always put your cell phone away when you’re on the road. Don’t speed around sharp turns. Be extra cautious when passing trucks or 18-wheelers. While these driver safety measures have become so routine to you that you may not think about them, these ideas are entirely new to your sons and daughters that are just learning how to drive.
Go over some of some of the safety tips you’ve learned over the years with your son or daughter.
Seat Belt Use
Make sure your children are buckling up when they hit the road, even if they are not the ones behind the wheel. You can’t remind them often enough. Compared to other age groups, teenage drivers and passengers have the lowest rate of seat belt use, according to the CDC. In 2013, just 55 percent of all teenagers said they always wore seat belts when either driving or in a car with another teenager driver.
Drinking and Driving Among Teen Drivers
Whether it’s graduation parties or just kids getting together on the weekends, teenage drinking is always a serious problem. Sadly, this means drinking and driving among teens will always be problem on the road as well.
In 2012, 23 percent of drivers ages 15 to 20 that were killed in car crashes were drinking, according to the CDC.
Despite all the great education our high schools do on the dangers of drinking and driving, 22 percent of teens still say they have been in cars recently with a driver who had been drinking. In a 2013 CDC study, about 10 percent of teenagers admitted to drinking and driving in the past 30 days.
Among teenage drivers, drinking and driving is also often combined with no seat belt use for particularly deadly results. In 71 percent of alcohol-related fatal crashes for drivers ages 15 to 20, no seat belt was worn.
A large portion of fatal teenage car accidents occur during hours drinking is most likely to take place. In 2012, 49 percent of all teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Teenagers and Distracted Driving
Many teens can’t seem to separate themselves from their phones, even when behind the wheel. The problem may be worse than we think.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration had estimated that 14 percent of teen driver crashes involved distracted driving. However, video analysis from the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety concluded that distraction is a factor in 60 percent of accidents involving teens.
The study showed that in almost 90 percent of teenage road departure accidents, distracted driving was a factor. That number was at 76 percent for rear-end collisions. Researchers found that teen drivers on their cell phones – calling, texting, or other use – had their eyes off the road for an average of 4.1 out of the final six seconds leading up to a crash. This gives them no time to react.
The study found that, other than cell phone use, other forms of distracted driving included:
- Interacting with passengers
- Looking at someone or something outside of the vehicle
- Singing or moving to music
- Self grooming
- Reaching for an object
Talking with your teenage driver can only go so far. They will listen to what you have to say, but your son or daughter is also going to have to take steps of their own. Encouraging your child to sign up for a defensive driving course or graduated licensing program has been proven to greatly improve a teenage driver’s safety on the road.
Where to look for those courses in the Atlanta area? We put together a list a few months ago.